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Jan. 08, 2013

Nothing but 'Flower'

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
Click on icon in upper right corner of slideshow to enlarge images.
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Flowers and art have a long history together, and not just in botanical illustrations. Flowers serve as a stand-in for sex (think Georgia O'Keeffe or Robert Mapplethorpe), help deliver the language of love, and symbolize death and rebirth. In paintings and poetry (and on primetime) flowers carry a lot of weight.
 
In his new book, Flower, photographer Andrew Zuckerman aims to strip away that baggage, and show us flowers as they're rarely seen -- free of symbolism, metaphor and meaning. 
 
"I've been interested in honing in on the flowers themselves, without context. In taking a subject and taking everything away, and placing them in a neutral space, there's a democratization that happens. The beauty of nature is then able to be realized," Zuckerman says. 
 
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On each two-page spread of this nearly six-pound book is a photograph of a single specimen, set against a bright white background. There's no accompanying text, no Latin names, not even page numbers. (Though a pictoral index to the plants' names is included in an appendix.) "The flowers are evenly lit," Zuckerman says, "so you don't find form and shape in shadow." 
 
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The book includes more than 100 specimens, photographed Zuckerman says, "moments after I clipped them." Some of the plants, including the New York Botanical Garden's rare Darwin's star orchid were photographed living, on-site. Click on the slide show above to see that orchid and more photos from the book. 
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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